Kindness Project in ELT (by Pravita Indriati)
February is the month of love, with both Valentine’s Day on the 14th and Random Acts of Kindness Day on the 17th. When most people think of celebrating love, they think of romantic times with their own loved ones. However, love is not only celebrated with our partners; we can show love to parents, siblings, relatives, friends, pets or even people around us. And we also know that love is not only expressed during Valentine’s Day but actually every day in our life. In addition, on 17th of February we celebrate the Random Acts of Kindness day. Hence there are two two events related with love happen in this month.
I teach in a non-formal English language school where the students come from high socioeconomic backgrounds. Most of them have been raised in rich families with privileges like maids, babysitters, money, etc. This tends to make them forget basic life values, like manners, politeness, and even kindness.
These things triggered me to start the Kindness Project in my school. I wanted to re-introduce values and kindness that my students seemed to have left behind, through activities which are related to ELT (English Language Teaching). Language is a perfect way to communicate values.
Simple activities to reinforce values and kindness
Kindness Scavenger Hunt
My students are crazy about Scavenger Hunt games, probably because they can move around to do them. In addition, it’s a time-limited game, so they love rushing around the rooms in the school to get the answers. I created a Kindness Scavenger Hunt worksheet for them to complete as they walked around the school, talked to or greeted everyone, and asked for those people’s signatures as evidence of completing their tasks.
It was actually hard and challenging at first as the students were not used to talking to strangers, even though those strangers were people in the school like other teachers, staffs, security guards, office boys and even students from other classes. But soon they really enjoyed competing to complete all the assignments.
This activity not only supports those who love kinaesthetic activities, but also helps to develop their speaking skills. Yup, they need to speak English to those people, not to mention learning the manners about being friendly, polite and grateful. This also helps to build their sense of empathy.
Thank You Notes or Letters
This activity can be done with young learners or teenagers. For younger learners, I encouraged them to create a heart-shaped Thank You note for their previous teachers. Inside the card, they had to write things they felt thankful for or what things they liked about their teacher.
For teenagers, I encouraged them to write a short Thank You letter to their previous teachers. Printed on pink paper, I asked them to write simple paragraphs telling what they felt thankful for and what things they liked about their teacher. I let them decorate the notes however they liked. After the activities were done, I gave the notes to the respective teachers. The teachers’ reactions were unbelievable.
In this activity, students are not only developing their writing skills, but also manners and being grateful.
Kindness Punishment Dare
Punishments may sound scary for students. They can be undermining and discouraging. Students who are frequently punished will tend to lose their enthusiasm and willingness to study, which is bad. However, teachers still need a way to deal with students who don’t want to follow our classroom rules.
So how can we discipline students without making them feel like they are being punished? I usually ask them to go to another class, knock at the door, say ‘excuse me’ and ‘have a great day’ to the teacher. Or maybe help another teacher as they meet after the class, or compliment others. These are some of the same tasks that I included in the Scavenger Hunt game. Just like the game, students may feel reluctant or scared at first, but once they do one of the tasks they feel relieved as it is not that scary at all.
Kindness Give Back Challenge
To sum up all the activities, at the end of the month, we had the Kindness Give Back Challenge. This was a time for the students to experience simple kindness from people around them. I asked the class about their achievements or what they were good at and they proudly said whether they were top of the class, great musicians or singers or even competition winners. After that, they were asked to write their it on a piece of paper and request a “high five”, “handshake” or “fist-bump” for their accomplishment from other students. Then they walked around the school and collected as many gesture compliments as they could, and some people began asking them questions about what they had done were good at. Through this activity, students learned how it feels when people show kindness to them through simple compliments. This also helped them to acknowledge their own self-value. Furthermore, they learned to respect and acknowledge other’s value too.
When people think about kindness, some people relate it with materials or donations or gift giving. These are simple activities that can be applied easily and every day. We want to teach students to build their empathy from the heart, not by being materialistic. Then, they will not think that spending money equals kindness. We can all show kindness to others regardless of how much money we have in the bank.
At the end of all of our activities, I always tell students that making people feel good, showing kindness, being polite and well-mannered increases their own value, and that they might even get good things in return. It brought me to tears seeing them doing the activities and seeing the smiles of others. I also told them that I hope to see that these activities won’t stop when our class ends, but will be continued in their daily lives. Simple things lead to big ones. If they can do these simple activities in their lives, it won’t be impossible even for them to change the world. Let’s spread the message from our classes to the world.
These activities were documented and posted in my Facebook and Instagram feeds, in order to show people how kindness can start from our classrooms to the world. If you have more ideas for activities, feel free to share in the comments below. Please join me in doing this kindness project in your class and let’s see the impact.